How Pepper is had: and where it groweth

MOREOVER, that it may be manifest how pepper is had, it is to be understood that it groweth in a certain kingdom whereat I myself arrived, being called Minibar, and it is not so plentiful in any other part of the world as it is there. For the wood wherein it grows containeth in circuit eighteen days' journey. And in the said wood or forest there are two cities, one called Flandrina, and the other Cyncilim. In Flandrina both Jews and Christians do inhabit, between whom there is often contention and war: howbeit the Christians overcome the Jews at all times.

In the foresaid wood pepper is had after this manner: first it groweth in leaves like unto pot-herbs, which they plant near unto great trees as we do our vines, and they bring forth pepper in clusters, as our vines do yield grapes, but being ripe, they are of a green colour, and are gathered as we gather grapes, and then the grains are laid in the sun to be dried, and being dried are put into earthen vessels: and thus is pepper made and kept.

Now, in the same wood there be many rivers, wherein are great store of crocodiles, and of other serpents, which the inhabitants thereabout do burn up with straw and with other dry fuel, and so they go to gather their pepper without danger.

At the south end of the said forests stands the city of Polumbrum, which aboundeth with merchandise of all kinds. All the inhabitants of that country do worship a living ox, as their god, whom they put to labour for six years, and in the seventh year they cause him to rest from all his work, placing him in a solemn and public place, and calling him an holy beast. Moreover they use this foolish ceremony: every morning they take two basins, either of silver, or of gold, and with one they receive the urine of the ox, and with the other his dung. With the urine they wash their face, their eyes, and all their five senses. Of the dung they put into both their eyes, then they anoint the balls of their cheeks therewith, and thirdly their breast: and then they say that they are sanctified for all that day. And as the people do, even so do their king and queen.

This people worshippeth also a dead idol, which, from the navel upward, resembleth a man, and from the navel downward an ox. The very same idol delivers oracles unto them, and sometimes requireth the blood of forty virgins for his hire. And therefore the men of that region do consecrate their daughters and their sons unto their idols, even as Christians do their children unto some religion or saint in heaven. Likewise they sacrifice their sons and their daughters, and so, much people is put to death before the said idol by reason of that accursed ceremony. Also many other heinous and abominable villainies doth that brutish beastly people commit: and I saw many more strange things among them which I mean not here to insert.

Another most vile custom the foresaid nation doth retain: for when any man dieth they burn his dead corpse to ashes: and if his wife surviveth him, her they burn quick, because (say they) she shall accompany her husband in his tilthe and husbandry, when he is come into a new world. Howbeit the said wife having children by her husband, may if she will, remain still alive with them, without shame or reproach: notwithstanding, for the most part, they all of them make choice to be burnt with their husbands. Now, albeit the wife dieth before her husband, that law bindeth not the husband to such inconvenience, but he may marry another wife also. Likewise, the said nation hath another strange custom, in that their women drink wine, but their men do not. Also the women have the lids and brows of their eyes and beards shaven, but their men have not: with many other base and filthy fashions which the said women do use contrary to the nature of their sex.

From that kingdom I travelled ten days' journey unto another kingdom called Mobar, which containeth many cities. Within a certain church of the same country, the body of Saint Thomas the apostle is interred, the very same church being full of idols: and in fifteen houses round about the said church, there dwell certain priests who are Nestorians, that is to say, false, and bad Christians, and schismatics.

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